“Weaving of Mirzapuri Kajri.”
One of the best-known singers of the region, Urmila ji, is known especially for her Kajris (a form of singing popular in the monsoon season), though her repertoire is very vast. She has released her own cassettes and is also invited widely to sing at formal and informal gatherings – mostly in urban settings. She has a very gentle & subtle style of singing with minimal body movements but a lot of expressions.
One of the most popular and well-known forms of folk music – Kajris, is often sung by classical and semi-classical musicians. The word Kajri is possibly a derivative of Kajal – meaning Kohl or Black. In a country of sizzling hot summers – the black monsoon clouds bring with them relief and great joy – with a need to sing out loud. This is the moment for the Kajri to be sung.
Even though Kajri is sung in a large region – Mirzapur is considered the real home of the Kajri. According to a folk tale of Mirzapur – there was a woman called Kajli whose husband was in a distant land. Monsoon arrived, and the separation became unbearable; she started crying at the feet of the Kajmal Goddess. These cries took the form of popular Kajri songs. There are two forms of Kajri singing in Uttar Pradesh – one within which it is sung on a performance platform and the other when it is sung by women on monsoon evenings while dancing in a semi-circle- this is known as the ‘Dhunmuniya Kajri’.
Urmila’s life has been quite a struggle. At the age of fifteen, her parents’ shadow disappeared from her head. Her father was a minor employee in the bank. After her parents, the responsibility of raising three younger brothers suddenly came to her head. Then as an elder sister, she started to work in fields and started writing a new chapter. She suffered injuries while ploughing the field with oxen. She educated her three brothers and got their weddings done on their own. In 1972, she got an opportunity to teach at Arya Kanya Inter College, which helped her gain a lot of confidence in her life. During this time, she learnt folk music by heart and ran the family from the grain produced in the fields.
At All India Bhojpuri Sammelan in 1992, she received hundreds of honour letters, including ‘Kajri Sammani’ in Delhi, Bhikhari Thakur Samman in World Bhojpuri Sammelan in Mumbai, Bhojpuri Council Kolkata in West Bengal, ‘Kokil’ and Mahendra Mishra Puradiya Samman in 2009 on Mauritius soil. Urmila Srivastava, who has earned a reputation as a Kajri singer, specialises in singing Devi songs, Dadra, Kaharwa, Purvi, Chaiti, Holi, Jhumar, Khemta, Banni-Banna, Sohar, Lachari and Videsiya.
With her strength and motivation to prevent the folk songs genre from fading away, she has enthralled the audience in Dubai, Bhutan, Mauritius and Singapore, captivating the audience with the magic of their songs in various provinces of the country. Apna Utsav (Mumbai), Bhojpuri Sammelan Kolkata, Teej Festival Chandigarh, North Indian Lokotsav (Mumbai), Haryana 25th Birth Anniversary, Kumbh Mela (Haridwar), Gwalior Fair, Ramayana Fair, Lokranjan Fair (Jodhpur), Alap Festival Hyderabad, Bhopal Utsav Mela are the few arenas where she got success in winning the hearts of people with her singing.
For over three decades, Urmila Srivastava has been a high performer of All India Radio and Doordarshan. There are dozens of her audio cassettes in the Indian Shopping Festival Dubai, which feature programs at 16 venues in the Dubai market.
Her whole group possesses amazing talent and experience in Indian classical as well as folk music forms. These artists have a tremendous ability to capture and galvanise their audiences. Their songs smoothly pick up with the harmony along with the Shehnai as the beats of the Dholak joined into the right amount of punch to each song. Urmila’s vocals would fit the combination so well that each and everyone present over there would lose themselves to the music. Despite all her struggles, she, along with her group, strives to keep developing their craft and dream of writing more books to educate future generations about folk and classical music in the future to see themselves succeed through the art that they love so much.